9 Fun food facts that will totally change your opinion on ketchup
We could be talking french fries, we could be talking a burger. Heck, if you're Donald Trump, you're probably talking well-done steak. But regardless of what you're eating, there aren't many foods that a good helping of ketchup won't improve at least a little bit.
But while we're making a good meal great, we don't often think about ketchup - apart from how great it tastes. We know vaguely that it's made from tomatoes, but maybe it's time to brush up your knowledge on ketchup. Impress your friends with these nine fun facts.
1. American ketchup actually takes inspiration from China
Although we like to think of ketchup as an American (or at least Western) invention, everyone's favourite condiment was actually inspired by a Chinese invention. While in Southeast Asia, the British first discovered kê-kê, which is a Chinese condiment made from fermented fish. So enamoured with the sauce, they tried making their own version back on British soil - everything from mushrooms to oysters, anchovies and walnuts - before eventually stumbling across ketchup.
2. Early recipes actually had no tomatoes
We all know that the main ingredient for all ketchup is tomato - but for a long time, there was zero tomatoes in your average helping of ketchup. That's because way back when in the 1700s, the noble tomato was thought to be rather poisonous, slapped with the unearned moniker of the "poison apple". That was eventually debunked when those European aristocrats realised that the pewter plates they were eating tomatoes from contained lots of lead (oops), and in 1812 a scientist from Philadelphia published the very first tomato-based ketchup recipe.
3. Ketchup didn't start off as a condiment
Back in the 1800s, you wouldn't have ketchup as a side dip with your food, but you'd stir it right into whatever stew or soup you were making. Ketchup was initially intended as a flavour enhancer instead of a condiment, but as hamburgers and hot dogs became more popular, the express purpose of ketchup ended up changing with it.
4. Early versions of ketchup were also super unhealthy
If you're not a farmer or particularly into your agriculture, you might not know that the tomato-growing season used to be super short. To combat this, early ketchup producers used to pump their product with tons of preservatives, and that meant you were likely to get a ton of tar in early ketchup bottles. That was, until an American company decided to develop higher-quality tomato seeds, and made it mandatory for produce to be processed within 24 hours of harvest. That company? HJ Heinz, creators of Heinz ketchup.
5. The '57' you see on Heinz ketchup bottles has a special meaning
If you look closely, you'll notice that there's a 57 on the neck of the bottle. This initially used to signify 57 different varieties of Heinz, but it's actually a very clever marketing ploy - at the time the slogan was dreamed up, Heinz had already made 60 variations, and today, that number stands at over 6,000.
6. There's a very easy way to get ketchup out of the bottle
Many an hour has been wasted trying to get ketchup out of that darned glass bottle, but there's actually a very simple trick. See that 57 on the neck? Give it a tap, why don't you? It should flow out, like the River Nile after a bout of heavy rainfall. Give it a go next time you're looking for a tangy twist for your hotdog.
7. Ketchup is found in 97 percent of American households
If you were to have a meal in 100 households around the United States and asked for a bottle of ketchup, 97 of those houses would have one ready to hand to you - once they finished their questions about who you were and why you were making a hot dog in their kitchen at three in the morning. With 125 million American households to play with, you're looking at 54,000 tons of the tomato goodness - comfortably enough to sink the Titanic, iceberg or no.
8. The average American eats around 70 pounds of ketchup every year
However you like to get your ketchup fix, there's about 12 million tons being produced every year, to the tune of $900 million a year. 70 pounds of that will be guzzled down in a hotdog, hamburger, or just on its own like a madman, every year.
9. It might even help you live longer
Okay! Maybe this is a tiny stretch, but there are certain substances found in your average tomato that could help you stave off the Grim Reaper for another day yet. Ketchup contains phytochemical lycopene, which reduces the risk of cancer, but with the sugar and salt content in ketchup there are definitely healthier ways of getting your lycopene fix. Like a tomato, for example.
Wow! That is a lot of facts about tomatoes that you now know. Share them with your friends! Bring it up on a date! Mention it to the hamburger you eat alone tonight, to help you fight away the crushing loneliness. Don't waste this vital information.